September 29, 2015

Dawes - All Your Favorite Bands

This video makes me so happy.

September 23, 2015

Recently Read...

The Celebrant, by Eric Rolfe Greenberg.  I try to read a baseball book every summer, and this year, I decided to re-read my favorite of all time. It was as wonderful as I remembered.

Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll.  I read a bunch of great reviews about this one - "the next "Gone Girl" and blahblahblah... so I gave it a shot. It is an easy read; and it's tightly woven, bouncing back and forth between the main character at 14 and then again in her 20s. I hated her. She's easy to hate - she's terrible, and if you read it, you'll hate her too. However, by the end, your feelings towards her...well, they may not change, but they will be complicated. It would be a good book for a book club, because it's sure to generate a discussion.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. I finally read this one, after having it on my to-read list for so long. It's sweet, and I'd compare it to a warm bath in a candlelit room. Comfortable, easy, and thoughtful.

September 17, 2015

San Francisco...

Last month, Kevin and I were looking at the calendar, working to arrange after-school care and make plans. September is full of holidays and half-days, and as we're transitioning into a new school year, it can be a difficult month to manage. Rosh Hashana meant two days off of school for the boys, and Kevin mentioned that he would be in San Francisco that week. "Why don't you bring the boys out for a long weekend?" he suggested. I did not hesitate. 

My boys are spoiled. I never made it out of the East Coast time zone until I was 25 and in a position to pay for my own trip. My boys, on the other hand, have already visited many places in the US and the Caribbean, in addition to Spain, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. They already do not view it as a big deal to fly, and they have a pretty good grasp of geography, as well as a perspective on different languages and cultures. I do often wonder if I'm giving them a global perspective or if we're spoiling them and leaving them unable to appreciate how fortunate they are to be able to have such experiences. I think the answer is probably both. 

There are also times on every trip when I question my sanity in traveling with kids. Traveling is hard, but exponentially so when you're dealing with tired and bickering and whining kids. But then I find myself walking the streets of San Francisco, playing I Spy and pointing out cool and beautiful buildings, noticing them appreciate the sights of the city (the trolleys, the bridges, Lombard Street...), and I know that it's worth it. 

And if I'm being honest, the primary reason that I travel with my kids is that I love to travel. I want to see new places, and I also want to spend time with my family. 

We had a wonderful time in San Francisco. It's a very special city to Kevin and me, since it's where we began dating. It was fun to be able to celebrate our anniversary (13!) there, and it was also fun to be able to show the boys Kevin's old apartment and take them to some of our favorite restaurants. It was a long trip for just a few nights, but the boys are getting easier and easier to travel with, and it was absolutely worthwhile.

Some of the things we did...
  • Burgers and shakes at Moe's
  • Walking a ton! 
  • Dinner with Kevin's aunt and uncle
  • Football at the Yerba Buena Gardens
  • A Giants baseball game on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon - so many trips down the slides!
  • Playing in the hotel pool/hot tub
  • Aquarium
  • Arcade games
  • Running on the beach
  • Ice cream sundaes at Ghirardelli
  • A trolley ride through the city
  • Dinner at North Beach pizza

September 16, 2015

A Fun Diversion...

Sydney and Vaughn

I forgot to mention one other thing I've been doing this past month:  watching Alias. It's one of my most favorite TV shows, and I discovered that it was available on Netflix. I started putting it on in the background as I worked in the evenings, and I found myself hooked on it just as I was 14 years ago when it started.  The first two seasons are sooooo good, and even though it goes downhill from there, I am still having fun watching it all over again.

I'm Still Here.

I haven't forgotten about the blog. I've been really missing it. Writing, checking in, focusing on the good stuff. Alas, life has gotten in the way. But I'm here, and I know I will get back into a rhythm once we settle into our school year routine.

What have I been up to? Well...
  • Working (too much)
  • Being sick (strange illness that seemed to go on forever - I'm fine now though thankfully)
  • Soaking up the last bits of summer
  • Visiting family
  • Buying back-to-school clothes
  • Getting together with friends
  • Ordering Halloween costumes (we're going big this year)
  • Getting the boys started with 1st and 3rd grades
  • Attending first soccer practices for the boys (holy cow do they love it - so fun)
  • Not exercising much (see first two bullets)
  • Enjoying a trip to San Francisco (just got back last night - another post coming soon)

I'm going to get my blog groove back soon.  In the meantime:  Hi!  I've missed you.

August 12, 2015

Family Time on Lake Ontario

Rock-throwing. An endless fascination.

Dead end at the lake. It's farm country.

Another summer, another beautiful visit to Lake Ontario.

Every time we go, I feel like I'm giving a gift to my kids. They only put on shoes to go in the water. They ride bikes, they play with cousins, they fly kites and play soccer and swim and eat fresh fruit and corn on the cob. They stay up late and sleep in. They never ask to watch TV, and we all feel completely removed from our normal home routines. It's a beautiful thing.

We only had one day on the boat this time, which was a bummer, but at least the kids got a boat ride. There was lots of time for swimming, which was great.

The weather was mostly spectacular. We had some rainstorms during our largest family gathering that caused us to have to eat dinner inside. However, the rain stopped - and the sky lit up with color - in time for us to build a bonfire.

Blueberry picking. They are so good, and I've been eating them by the bowlful. I also made this tart, which is amazing.

We visited a tiny old-fashioned amusement park with the kids - 25 cents a ride. Aaron just barely made it under the height limit, so he could still ride the rides - he was excited to watch over his cousins. A carousel, a tiny ferris wheel, a few round-and-round rides, and an ice cream shop. A great afternoon outing.

Nathan pulled out his joke book at the bonfire, and the group enjoyed his comedy act. It was awesome. 

I enjoyed a few morning yoga sessions by the lake while my boys slept late. What a fabulous way to start the day.

Every year, I feel pulled in many directions while I'm there. I want to "hurry up and relax!" I want to spend time with each of my family members and be with all of them at the same time. It's difficult to catch up while in a group, and it's difficult to pull away for fear of missing out. I also always feel like there's something to do - meals to be planned and made, items to be found, areas to clean, kids to be watched... It can be hard to chill. I did manage, but I could do better. 

Waiting so patiently.

If you're thinking that water looks a little too rough for water-skiing, you'd be correct. 
It was fun but very tough.

The rain was worth it to see this on our way to the bonfire.

Messi, my "master blueberry picker".

A trip to the lake isn't complete without a gorgeous sunset pic.

July 28, 2015

Newport - 2015

The Newport Folk Festival is always a highlight of the year. A large, happy gathering of people to sit in the sunshine and listen to good music. Is there anything more beautiful than that?

This year, we got to hear The Suffers, The Barr Brothers, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Joe Pug, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Brandi Carlile, The Decemberists, and James Taylor.

JT was a surprise guest in the middle of the afternoon. Although I confess that he felt very old-school in the midst of all these younger artists, it was a nice tribute. The last time he played Newport, his set was cut short because Neil Armstrong had just stepped out onto the moon! I had heard he was coming the night before, and when I told Kevin, the boys heard and asked, "Who is James Taylor?" I felt that it was my obligation to introduce them to his music, so we spent Friday's dinnertime listening to his classics. Aaron was excited that he played many of those same songs the following day, including "Carolina in my Mind", which I had told them was played pretty much nonstop during my freshman orientation at the University of North Carolina. 

It was a really nice day, with a few annoyances as well. I forgot to set my own expectations for spending a day like this with two still relatively little boys. We had many nice moments, listening to music, doing crafts in the family tent, playing corn hole, eating lunch.  And we had some terribly frustrating moments, including the first couple songs of Jason Isbell's set, when the boys whined and moaned about being bored and hot and having to pee. Later in the evening, they got tired and restless and proceeded to run around like wild animals, fighting and yelling. I love them so much, but it must be said:  kids suck sometimes. 

We splurged on a night in a Newport hotel, with visions of spending Sunday by the very nice pool. Unfortunately, the weather didn't agree with our plan, so after a quick and chilly dip, we walked around town with two whiny boys, had lunch, and headed home.  

Although it didn't quite end up as I had hoped, it was still a worthwhile endeavor, and I'm already looking forward to doing it again next year. It's a family tradition I want to continue, and one day the boys will think back to the time they saw James Taylor in concert.

July 24, 2015

Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

I love The Newport Folk Festival so much. It's one of my favorite weekends of the year, and the lineup never disappoints.  The highlight of this year's festival lineup for me is Jason Isbell. He was my favorite performance in 2013. He just released a new album, and he's playing the main stage this year. I can't wait.

This is our fourth year!  Check out 2012, 2013, and 2014.  Let's see how long we can keep it going...

July 15, 2015

Little Things...

Little boys playing baseball on a warm summer evening. Aaron's playing in our backyard! Finally!

Bright and sunny mornings, which make it so much easier to get up and make time for a morning workout.

Yoga. I've been alternating between interval training and yoga. It feels like a good balance, and I adore mixing in more bouts of yoga during the week. It's such a beautiful way to start the day.

Travel plans. (Next week - Newport! And a new addition to the travel calendar - San Francisco in September!)

Walking barefoot in the grass.

Playing catch.

Eating lunch outside with colleagues. I am by far the oldest, but we manage to find common ground.

Kale salad. Caprese salad. Cranberry couscous. Grilled vegetables. Raspberries! 

Harry Potter. The boys and I are listening to The Sorcerer's Stone audiobook, and it's wonderful.

Fresh air coming in through open windows.

July 10, 2015

A Few Things...

Inside Out is wonderful. Have you seen it yet? I keep thinking about it. It's really more of an older kid and adult movie, although my kids enjoyed it. It's very thought-provoking and incredibly imaginative and wonderfully done. Please go see it.

Gun Control And The Need For It. Wonderful post and accompanying videos.

Working moms have more successful daughters and more caring sons.  I think perhaps it's more about having moms who are pursuing personal goals, whether they are making money or not. It's also about having parents who are true partners, both contributing to the home.

My cousin Krista wrote another great post for Huffington Post.  This one made me tear up a bit.

Another frustrating but important article about parenting.  "Affluent parenting can deprive a child of fundamental life skills."  I especially liked the end of the article, comparing our kids childhoods with our own, and thinking about the experiences that we had growing up that our children won't get to have. I will admit that it does make me sad sometimes. I don't want to be as poor as my family was growing up, but I do want to make sure that those same values that I was raised with - responsibility, frugality, empathy... - are passed on.

Interesting article about how optimistic people are always late.  I'm never late. It's probably my biggest pet peeve. I am also a pessimist, so I suppose that fits. I have many optimistic-and-always-running-late friends, though, including the one who shared this article. It's interesting to think about how their minds work.

Free personality test.  It's a quick, 10-minute test. I am a sucker for doing one of these every year or two. They always say the same thing, so I don't know why I'm compelled to take them. My personality is pretty set in stone at this point.  I'm an ISTJ, through and through. These descriptions of strengths and weaknesses are pretty spot on.

This is very random, but I'm thinking I'd like a pair of cute, casual shoes like these Vans.  I'm not sure if I'll think they are comfortable enough, though. What do you think?

Well, this is a not surprising find: Screen addition isn't good for children.  My oldest (Aaron) is 8 and a half, and he already has friends who have their own smart phones. So many of them have been playing Xbox for years, and they've had tablets since they were toddlers. And let's not even mention TV! Just the other day, Aaron made a comment about when he'll be " the 5th grade and I'll have a phone...".  I guess he heard that a few of his friends were getting phones then and assumed that he would as well. I had to correct him on that. We'll see how it goes, but I'm going to keep all the screens to a minimum for as long as possible. One day they'll thank me. Or not. I don't care.

I had such fun sharing the Women's World Cup experience with my boys. They love watching soccer, and I love that there is a women's sport that is so awesome to watch.  I think it's important that my boys get to see women being amazing in sports.  I loved this article containing reactions from the 1999 team on this year's World Cup win.

July 9, 2015

Recently Read

Essentialism, by Greg McKeown.  This is a thought-provoking book. In general, I think I have already learned many of these principles through my work experience, but I could do better; and applying them to the personal side of life is a whole different ballgame. Basically, the idea is that we should all do less. Figure out what truly matters, and focus only on that. If you have too many priorities, it becomes too difficult to manage them and move any of them forward.
     There's a man I currently work with who fits this "Essentialist" model pretty well. At first, he drove me crazy, because he constantly declines meetings. He is not easy to engage. But after attending a couple meetings with him, I realized that he is a very active participant in the meetings he deems valuable and necessary for him to attend. He probably wasn't needed for all the others, and he saved himself time. I now respect him even more. Now I'm working to apply these concepts to my own life. What matters? And why am I spending time doing anything else?

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler.  This book was recommended to me by several people who loved it. It's very good - the structure is captivating, the language is beautiful, the characters are rich. I have to admit, though...I didn't love it. Sometimes a book can be really good and still not make a connection with the reader.

Girl in a Band, by Kim Gordon. Much like this reviewer from the NY Times, I find myself in a "sweet spot" of being able to fully appreciate this memoir. I know of Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth and its place in musical history. I know of Kim Gordon the artist as well. And I'm always fascinated to learn more about the personality - the personal history - behind music and art. This book did not disappoint. Kim talks about her love of New York City, her move to western Massachusetts, her early days before the band, meeting Thurston Moore (her husband of 27 years, now divorced), her daughter and family life, connections made along the way...  I especially enjoyed glimpses of what it must have been like to be a mother and a rock star. Traveling the world on tour with your band, along with a daughter. Crazy for this traditional suburban mom to consider, but not crazy enough for me not to be able to appreciate it. Highly recommend.

July 8, 2015

Cape Cod

This picture seemed so beautiful and calm to me until I learned that they tagged a 13-foot great white shark off this very coast a few days ago. Yikes!

We hadn't been to Chatham in many years, opting for long weekends in Maine instead. It wasn't technically a full vacation for me, since I was working several of the days; but we had wonderful family time on the Cape last week. My sister-in-law found us an amazing house, just a block from the ocean and big enough for all of us with plenty of room to spare. It gave us so much flexibility, to be able to walk down to the beach for a while, walk back for lunch, bring my 18-month old niece back for her nap, etc. It was wonderful.

The weather was iffy overall, but we managed beautifully. In addition to beach time, we watched Star Wars IV, played lots of corn hole and badminton and other yard games, went out for ice cream, visited batting cages, rode bumper boats and go-carts, attended a Cape League baseball game, and went to an inflatable water slide park. Oh, and the adults played cards most evenings after the kids went to bed. Why is it that we only play cards when on vacation? 

It was a beautiful week. I'm happy we were able to be together as a family, that we got to celebrate Nathan's 6th birthday in such a fabulous place, that we got to enjoy so much great ice cream, and that we got to share more of the Cape with the boys. Time at the beach is a summertime must.

July 7, 2015


Me and my little man

I already documented the awesome party, but I wanted to capture a few things about my fabulous six-year-old.

1.  His favorite color is now green (the same as mine).
2.  He is still not a big meat-eater. His favorite meals are pasta with sauce and grilled cheese. He's great with most veggies, so I really can't complain. He has always hated tomatoes, but he tried one this week (I ask him to try every year) and decided they weren't so bad. ("But I don't want more, thank you.")
3.  Cereal for breakfast. I often try to replace it with other options, because I hate cereal; but anything else I make is not a replacement for, but rather an addition to, cereal.
4.  His current favorite TV show is Cyberchase. The boys also recently blew through a new "How to Train Your Dragon" series on Netflix.
5.  He is still not a huge fan of movies with people in them; HOWEVER...he just watched Star Wars IV for the first time and loved it. So I guess it depends on the movie.
6.  He loves legos.  He is fine letting his big brother build the sets - he just wants to play with them.
7. He is currently into Star Wars, Ninjago, and Pokemon. He has binders full of cards, and he loves to sort them and compare them and trade them and carry them around and look at them... It's an obsession. Superheroes are still cool too.
8.  He had an amazing kindergarten year. He learned a ton, and he was a good listener and helper. He now has a really good group of friends.
9.  He still requires alone-time every day. Usually this involves sorting his cards or playing with legos or action figures. This drives his brother crazy. 
10.  He is a huge fan of soccer. He finally got to play on a team this Spring, and he loved it and can't wait to play again in the Fall.
11.  He also loves baseball. He likes to practice during his big brother's games, and he's getting pretty good. He has to wait until the Spring to play on a team, and he's already asking for gear in anticipation.
12.  I love having him read to me during storytime at night.  We are also venturing slowly into chapter books. We've started quite a few that haven't kept his interest over multiple days, but we have made it through a few, including many Flat Stanleys. 
13.  He still has his blonde hair, getting blonder in the summer sun.
14.  He wants to be a soccer player when he grows up. 
15.  He likes to hold my hand when we're walking somewhere. I love to hold his hand.

June 23, 2015

What a Weekend...

Nathan had been looking forward to his birthday party for months. Months of planning and anticipating. Thankfully, the big day did not disappoint. We settled on the Star Wars theme, rented a bounce house, made light sabres out of pool noodles, decided on an R2-D2 craft, and chose the flavors of ice cream in the ice cream cake. Aside from a little cake drama in the morning (they told me they didn't have it, leading us to scramble and stress as we tried to figure out an alternative before they called to tell me they found it in the back of the freezer...gah!), everything went great. The weather was clear, and the boys had a blast. 

All the boys wanted to check out the softball game taking place in the field behind our house.

Adorable R2-D2s

And because we had the bounce house all day, we decided to take full advantage of it. We invited some friends over with their kids to enjoy an "after-party". We had dinner together, and the kids played on the bounce house and tried out Nathan's birthday presents. It was one of those days when life seems too good, too happy, and I almost feel a little guilty for it. We'll keep trying to have as many of those days as possible.

Playing with Nathan's wubble bubble ball

June 18, 2015

Menu of the Week

I haven't done a menu post in quite a while. This is largely due to the fact that I haven't tried many new recipes this year. I'm starting to get my groove back, though, and while I will continue to rely on our standard go-to meals, I like incorporating a new dish every now and then as well. 

Here are a few of the recipes we've enjoyed recently. Most are ones we've tried before, with a new one thrown in for good measure.

Pasta and Grilled Vegetables with Goat Cheese - I left the radicchio out of this, because who really likes radicchio? I also forgot the artichoke hearts, which I'm sure would've made a nice addition. I added a yellow squash and more pepper, and it was good. This is more of an "inspiration" recipe, though - not really one I'd ever follow to the letter. But grilled vegetables (whatever you have), pasta, and goat cheese will always be a good combination.

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie - This is one of my favorites. The boys always complain when I tell them what's for dinner, and then they clean their plates. It happens that way sometimes. The only negative about this dish is that it requires my handling a jalapeno, and apparently I can't do that without getting it on my fingers and then rubbing my eyes and going blind for a while. Still, totally worth it.

Arugula Salad with Grilled Chicken, Corn, Tomatoes, and Blue Cheese - Another summer favorite. I enjoy without chicken, and we leave the arugula out for the boys. Sometimes dinners must be deconstructed to each diner's tastes, and I'm okay with this if it means I can still eat big salads for dinner. *NOTE:  This is what I put on the menu, but for some reason, I didn't make it happen. I opted for "that chicken" from Dinner: A Love Story, corn on the cob, and sauteed kale. I had all that corn, and I could tell the boys wanted to have it on the cob this time.

Shrimp Kebabs with Lemon and Cilantro, Rice, Green Beans - Super easy and fast. A perfect weeknight dinner, especially when Kevin is out of town and can't complain about having shrimp for dinner. 

Corn Chowder with Zucchini and Orzo - This is the new recipe of the week.  There are good news and bad news here. The bad news is that it was somewhat messy to make and rather bland. Perhaps I didn't quite get enough corn off my cobs, but it turned out pretty thin. I replaced half of the water with vegetable broth, and yet I still had to add a good amount of salt and pepper. The good news? It's healthy, and the boys inhaled it, cleaning their bowls without a fuss. I probably won't make it again, but it was worth it this time!

Masterpiece Wall...

I know - I should've taken the picture on a sunny day, but I'm impatient!

When we renovated our kitchen, we put in a little eating area, and the wall above the table is reserved for handmade art. As we reach the end of the school year, we've had the opportunity to bring home all the boys' work and art. One of my favorite things to do is go through their portfolios and pick out a few favorites to display on our art wall.  This year's collection is so fabulous.

Here's what it looked like the first year. I love looking back at it. I had forgotten about the Arc de Triomphe - one of my all-time favorites and a beautiful memento from a visit to Paris. One entitled "Yellow". And that pirate ship! Classic. This year's display includes a wonderful sunflower drawing by Nathan, a desert scene by Aaron, and other gorgeous pieces. They love the end product almost as much as I do.  

June 15, 2015

Wide Open Weekend...

We looked towards a weekend with nothing planned. Soccer Saturday morning, but that was it. I was looking forward to it, but I was also feeling that I should be doing more to make plans. This is what ended up happening...

After working Friday morning, I spent a couple hours at end of year parties at school. Then my husband texted and said that we could use his company's Red Sox tickets for that night. They are great seats, and we had talked before about how cool it would be to be able to take the boys one day. That day had come, and we jumped at the chance. We went early to have dinner and watch batting practice, and the boys were actually sad to leave before the game ended. It was a late night for them, but it was totally worth it.

Saturday morning included Nathan's last day of soccer, and I think we are all a little sad that the season has ended so soon. He had so much fun with it. Out to a cafe for breakfast, a visit to the farmer's market, lunch and hanging out at home, including more soccer in the yard. I wore myself out after about 45 minutes and wondered how they can run constantly for so long. I decided my toes needed to be dressed up before our upcoming beach trip, so I popped out for a pedicure - why not? Saturday night was movie night - we watched "Wild", which I really liked. 

Sunday...We all slept in! I was originally hoping to join free yoga on the common that morning, but when the boys didn't get out of bed until 9:30 (!), I decided a lazy Sunday morning was more in order. We lounged and ate pancakes. Our outing of the day was to a local farm for strawberry-picking. As we arrived home, the boys were hot and complaining about wanting to go somewhere they could swim, and I could feel the "I'm bored!" comments coming. Instead, they asked to fill up our little kiddie pool and proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon playing various yard games and not complaining at all! (Well, there may have been a few "he stole my ball!" and "he pushed me!" moments, but all in all, it was a pretty peaceful afternoon.) We ate dinner outside while the little leaguers played beside us.

It was a lovely, fun, and full go-with-the-flow weekend. I'm happy for it. I've been feeling a little guilty about the fact that the boys will be in camp for so much of the summer. I want them to feel those wide open and carefree days of Summer. So maybe it's good to leave some of that unstructured time for the weekends, and we can all refresh and relax together. 

June 8, 2015

A New Site Design and a Weekend...

Hi! Well, I finally got around to updating the blog design. Thanks to Danielle for making it ridiculously easy, and of course now I'm wondering why I didn't do it sooner. It's clean and simple, I love it, and it has made this space even more of a happy place for me. What do you think?

We had a nice weekend at home. Soccer, yard work, date night (we went out for tapas and saw Pitch Perfect 2 - not quite as good as the first, but still funny and great), sleeping in (the boys slept until after 9 on Sunday!), cleaning, and a canoe ride. Our neighbors were nice enough to let us borrow their canoe on Sunday. It was the perfect day for a ride on the river, and now I have the satisfaction of having sore biceps. Good stuff all around.

June 5, 2015

Brandi Carlile - Wherever Is Your Heart

A little music for your Friday. Brandi Carlile is so incredibly talented, and I love her music. I'm very much looking forward to seeing her in Newport next month. If you like, check out this performance with The Avett Brothers on Dave Letterman - it made me smile huge. And if you like all that, here's a live performance on KEXP - seriously, she's so freakin' good. 


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